Definiteness in Northern Sotho
Thesis (DLitt (African Languages))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
Definiteness is generally viewed as a morpho-syntactic category. It is grammatically marked by articles in languages such as English, but not all languages have a formal grammatical encoding for this category. The nominal preprefix (NPP) in languages such as Dzamba is not an equivalent to the English article system; however, it displays a close association with definiteness. Northern Sotho is non-articled, and it does not possess the NPP in its grammatical system. As a grammatical category, definiteness is the grammaticalisation of a pragmatic category of identifiability, which is present in all languages. Identifiability, as a means of referent tracing, plays a vital role in communication. The main aim of this study is to investigate how the phenomenon of definiteness manifests itself in Northern Sotho. The introductory chapter describes the purpose and aim of the study, its theoretical approach and methodology, as well as its organisation. The second chapter presents an overview of the previous major works on definiteness. It begins with the literature on the category in general, and moves on to the literature on definiteness in African Languages. These previous studies agree on the central issues of this category. The speaker utters a definite noun phrase (NP) if he presupposes that the addressee will be in a position to locate and to identify the referent of the NP uniquely or inclusively. Chapter 3 examines noun phrases that are regarded as definite in Northern Sotho; and the factors that contribute to such a reading. Pragmatic factors, i.e. existential presupposition, transparent contexts and anaphoric reference make major contributions to the interpretation of a noun phrase as definite. Nominal determiners and quantifiers whose semantic content suggests locatability, uniqueness and/or inclusiveness give a noun phrase definite reference. Such determiners and quantifiers include the demonstrative, possessive with locative gona/ntshe, the universal quantifier, etc. Proper names and pronouns have unique reference. Chapter 4 investigates indefinite noun phrases in Northern Sotho. Bare noun phrases in this language such as mang (who), lefeela (nothing) and aretse (unknown thing/place) are incompatible with definiteness. Their semantic content suggests that their referent cannot or should not be uniquely identified. Nominal modifiers such as -ngwe (another/different/ a certain), -fe (who/which) and šele (another/different/strange) are also incompatible with unique identifiabilty and they, therefore, accord a noun phrase indefinite reference. Nouns with generic interpretation and nouns in idioms do not uniquely refer to particular individuals. Chapter 5 looks into the ambiguity of bare noun phrases in Northern Sotho. It examines such a phrase in the subject position, the object position and the complement position of prepositional phrases. Nominal modifiers such as the adjective, the relative and the possessive are incorporated into noun phrases to see how they affect the reading. The question of subject inversion (SI) is also investigated. Lastly opaque contexts are discussed, and the ambiguity created by opacity-creating operators is examined. The final chapter of the study presents the main findings.